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Six on Forbes’ list of top women set pace for Africa’s technology pursuit

Clockwise:  Google Africa’s Olga Arara, Open Quest president June Arunga, Ory Okolloh (Google Africa) Royal Media’s Julie Gichuru,InMobi Africa’s head Isis Nyong’o and Capital Markets Authority boss Stella Kilonzo have been listed  among this year’s Forbes’ top 100 most powerful women. File
Clockwise: Google Africa’s Olga Arara, Open Quest president June Arunga, Ory Okolloh (Google Africa) Royal Media’s Julie Gichuru,InMobi Africa’s head Isis Nyong’o and Capital Markets Authority boss Stella Kilonzo have been listed among this year’s Forbes’ top 100 most powerful women. File  

There are six Kenyans who are currently in the world’s limelight, and for once, they are not members of the Ocampo Six.

These six Kenyans (and perhaps tellingly) have been listed as Africa’s most powerful women by the prestigious Forbes magazine, sharing a global pedestal with the likes of Michelle Obama and musician Lady Gaga.

According to Forbes, these six women wield enormous influence in African business, technology, policy and media. “They are change makers, trendsetters, visionaries and thinkers, builders, and young global leaders. They are at the vanguard of Africa’s imminent socio-economic revolution and its contemporary renaissance,” said the publication as it announced a global list of the top 100 most powerful women.

Household names

Kenya snagged six of 20 positions on the list of most powerful women in Africa. With the exception of Ms Kilonzo, all the women are part of the region’s growing technology field. Most of the (shall we call them) Super Six are familiar names in this publication – Olga Arara and Ory Okolloh of Google Africa, Stella Kilonzo of the Capital Markets Authority, Isis Nyong’o who heads InMobi’s Africa division and Julie Gichuru, who heads the digital division at Royal Media – have all become household names in the past 10 years.

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One is not so familiar, but her achievements speak volumes about the future of Kenya’s business landscape. June Arunga is the founder and president of Open Quest Media, a film and TV production company based in New York City.

The firm produces content for traditional and Internet broadcast on mainly business trends in Africa.

Development issues

At just 30 years old, she is known for her work on globalisation and development issues.

Having spent much of her youth growing up in Kenya, Ms Arunga was dismayed at the rapid decline in the quality of living. The increasing financial challenges her family faced inspired her to think about how to create wealth, and in particular, how governments in Africa could re-use existing formulas from around the world to create wealth.

In 2007, she narrowed in on the perfect vehicle for wealth opportunities in Kenya – the mobile phone.

Impressed by the massive uptake of the mobile phone, Ms Arunga noted that in the absence of traditional infrastructure, the wide reach of the mobile phone could be leveraged to extend other critical services such as financial products.

Last year, she launched a new venture that brought together all these collective knowledge. Black Star Lines hopes to offer rural communities financial services using mobile phones. With more than 500 vendors signed up, Black Star allows customers to use phone credit to pay bills. “One of the big things our platform does is teach people how banking works, provides them with identification and record keeping, and gives them access to a global market. This is what I always wanted out of Africa,” she told Fast Company last year when she was listed in the magazine’s Most Creative People in Business.

Why does these women matter?

The gains these women could be seen as a dipstick on the country’s performance on the global technology field. What set the Super Six apart is their ability to forge new ground in multi-national technology companies and make waves on the global playing field while at it.

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